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Fashion Week: Marc by Marc Jacobs Hits the Boardwalk, Herve Leger by Max Azria Revolutionizes the Bandage Dress

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This season, Marc Jacobs recalled melancholic, Taxi Driver-era Jodie Foster with his eponymous line, but he took off Tuesday afternoon to play in the sand. His younger diffusion line, Marc by Marc Jacobs, surprised ready-to-wear loyalists with sharp strides away from its usual color-mad, thrift-culled aesthetic; instead, the Lexington Armory audience experienced languid, sun-bleached separates more attuned with Venice Beach than Mercer Street.

The designer, socialite, and Sponge Bob enthusiast (the Square One is just a sampling of his myriad tattoos) is firmly entrenched in New York; born in Manhattan, he rose from a prodigal output and Perry Ellis Gold Thimble Award win while studying at Parsons to design his defiant, legendary “grunge” collection for Ellis in the early ’90s. Now, with no one as his boss (except perhaps Page Six), Jacobs is an international, varied brand, from French luxury house Louis Vuitton (where he is Creative Director) to the streetwise, cheaper Marc by Marc line; small wonder he was included in this year’s Time Magazine “Time 100” list of most influential people in the world.

Whew. Tuesday’s Marc by Marc collection was a breeze, compared to that trajectory. The Spring 2011 line was rife with thickly stacked, retro stripes–many in this Fashion Week’s most ubiquitous color, tangerine–emblazoned on strappy jumpsuits, fluid A-line skirts, and his favored drop-waist dresses (an impossibility for any lady with hips, but scarily persuasive on the twiggy catwalkers). A burnished orange, twill safari jacket and baggy shorts were on point with the Out of Africa trend many other designers have embraced this week, including Erin Fetherston; high-waisted floral bloomers served an immediate, funky contrast.

The show soon segued into structured chic of sandcastle hues; a nutmeg twill swing coat hung expertly, and a men’s ivory trench paired against the season’s new tan Turnlock bag. A tissuey cream men’s dress shirt and fawn tie tucked smartly into high-waisted dark trousers. My favorite women’s look was a poplin, short-sleeved nude blouse over eggshell paperbag shorts; it played wonderfully off the model’s zealously teased hair and fabric cloche pulled low. The closing ensemble, a dot-embroidered ash halter dress with swing skirt and orange striped wedge sandals, was retro but not regressive.
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Hours before, at the Lincoln Center Theatre, Hervè Lèger by Max Azria updated its red carpet staple, the bandage dress, with a truly striking fabric choice: rubber. Or, rather, rubberized lace panels placed atop structured brassiere-like seaming (how fittingly Parisian for the French/Tunisian designer). They were a truly inspired update and romantic addition to the oft-tawdry skintight party frock; instantly, the bandage dress was an elegant statement again. Loosely perforated, basket-weaved corsets in dainty cream leather completed the Marie Antoinette chic; I certainly lost my head for this spring line.

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